It Was Mother

It was Not

It Was Not
Wayras Olivier

NOT LONG AGO, Jeff Bezos was asked at a conference at D.C.’s Smithsonian Air and Space Museum why the U.S. government’s interest in exploring space has been curtailed and more or less succeeded by entrepreneurs. He gave a peculiar answer. Bezos’ response, delivered in a tone that both extols and applauds NASA for their technical sagacity, whether intentional or not, leaves a near imperceptible contradiction to be unpacked. Breakthroughs can impede future technological breakthroughs, huh?: 

“…Well, I think if you think back to the kind of hay-day of the 1960’s and the Apollo program and all of that excitement… my gut instinct on this is that we as a civilization, we as humanity, pulled that moon landing way-forward out of sequence from where it actually should have been. 

It was a gigantic effort with what is, uh, in many ways… it should have been impossible and they pulled it off with you know barely any computational power.
They were still using slide rules they couldn’t numerically model. 

And computers, a lot of these important processes like combustions inside a rocket engine which is still hard today but we can do it a little bit, uhm, they didn’t have computational fluid dynamics, everything had to be done in a wind tunnel that thing can be done on a computer. 

So I think that the reason we’ve sort of taken a hiatus, maybe, and part at least, is because we pulled that forward to a time when it should have been impossible and then once it was done [we] kind of had to wait and let technology catch up…”

Moon hoaxers, such as the late Bill Kaysing, arguably the ‘father’ of the unbowed movement, began—long before Bezos’ comment and the release of Amazon Women on the Moon—to go the yard by magnifying similar millimetric contradictions. Such as the failure of scientific praxis that culminated in the careless electrical fire, hastened by the oxygen dense cabin, which tragically killed cosmonauts Edgar White, Roger Chaffee, and Virgil Grissom during the dire test launch of 1967. Which jeopardized Kennedy’s promise to Congress in 1961 of “achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” 

Others, like James H. Fetzer, professor emeritus at UMD, and filmmaker Bart Sibrel, (my personal favorite because he’s as defensible as a dancing bear), focus solely on the so-called successful Apollo missions. Sibrel was convinced the American ‘experience’ had been poorly consecrated and took it upon himself to make it rich in 2003 (forcing one to bark in mock disbelief as to which antic was most childish). Sibrel’s insistence that each of the Apollo astronauts swear on the Bible in front of a camera regarding their spoken accomplishments. Or the fit septuagenarian himself, Buzz Aldrin, who declined outside a hotel in Beverly Hills, a nasally Sibrel retorted, “You’re a coward and a liar” whereupon Buzz socked the chubby filmmaker in the face.

Buzz appeared with his reputation intact on C-Span a few years later. Conspirators obsessed with the putative faces and pyramids on Mars got a validating lift, while down-to-earth secularists may have felt slightly betrayed by the pseudo-science of Buzz’s silly claim of “the universe” placing a monolith on Phobos, the larger of Mars’s two moons.

This was around the same time, mind you, that the “moon rock,” given decades ago to Dutch Prime Minister William Dress by Buzz, Collins, and Armstrong during their goodwill tour, was finally analyzed and discovered—despite the Apollo missions recovering more than 800 pounds of rock—to be nothing more than petrified wood.

Woody Woodpecker, if you’ve never seen the film, was used in an interlude to explain rocket propulsion in Destination Moon (similar to the way Jurassic Park’s cartoon segment explains how dinosaur DNA is sequenced) to make it more accessible for an audience. Despite his brief appearance, the film remains the first to dramatize a trip to the moon in an adult, long-faced mood. Released in 1950, three years into the Cold War, the reason for going to the moon, as explained by the character General Thayer “…is quite simple. We’re not the only ones who know that the moon can be reached. We are not the only ones who are planning to go there. The race is on and we’d better win it...”

As an aside, our most recent total eclipse on August 21st was much more than just the moon momentarily stealing all the sun’s karats; it was the 60th anniversary of the Soviet’s launching of R-7 Semyorka, the world’s first ballistic missile. A precursor to what would be, just a few months later, another first for the Soviets when they launched Sputnik, the world’s cardinal satellite. Stealing, yet again, a glowing gold spotlight from the U.S. It’s not really a stretch to imagine scores of demoralized American government officials reaching for the bottle yet refusing to participate in that celebrated drinking game Never Have I Ever.

Hmmm, I wonder if Tricky Dicky’s televised congratulatory phone call to Armstrong and Aldrin was really a staged carriage to bulwark America against the above intruding sentence. Old Milhous making a near-midnight call to the moon can have you turning, if one thinks on it too long, into a moon hoaxer. One who’s obsessed with real pumpkins.

Meanwhile, they snap a few photographs, (more on this point later), they detect uranium in nearby mountains, which they do not harvest, they realize once they’re on the moon that leaving Earth and reentering its atmosphere requires the rocket to be lighter, so they litter two tons of steel-twined rubbish from the rocket’s bowels onto the moon’s surface before returning home. In other words, Destination Moon’s cosmonauts simply bugger around.

The film was, to make a crude point, released long after Sir George Darwin made his own moonwalk—back and forth in his room—when the pacing astronomer laid the footprints for fission theory. The moon’s highly malleable origin story, which later became the glass slipper in the heads of astrophysicists who made it fit with today’s giant-impact theory. But released well before James Van Allen had discovered in 1958 what was, and currently is, fastened around Earth. “The double belts,” also known simply as the inner and outer Van Allen belts, a band of radiation 1,000 km above the earth which extends to the limits of the outer belt at 50,000 km. 

A certain obstacle, back in the sixties—one that moon hoaxers believe makes all the Apollo missions impossible. TDRS satellites, for example, can coast through the belts but organic payloads, such as Apollo, would require a rocket fitted and burdened with so much lead that lift-off itself would be near impossible due to the weight. Incidentally, every other manned mission: Projects Mercury and Gemini, along with the SkyLab and International Space Station, remained well below the belts.

Moon hoaxers are also hung up on the photographs. The jargon can get tedious, but the respective split between believers and hoaxers, simply put, is: Kodak employed unique gels and emulsions that were coalesced to create a one-of-a-kind film stock that could withstand non-terrestrial conditions (the moon’s zero atmosphere and exaggerated surface temperatures). Tolerant film sensitivity? You’re kidding! The other side maintains that the film was just ordinary Ektachrome 64 and thus would have been damaged. 

As would the parochial D2 batteries inside the problematic Hasselblad. Problematic because its focus and aperture rings are controlled manually by levers outside the camera which had, that’s right, its viewfinder removed.

And then there’s port and starboard inconsistencies, (a boat’s left and right side respectively when one is standing on its bow) and how this orientation is analogous to the Eagle’s hatch door and the purported “side” from which the lunar rover was being loaded and unloaded. And how the Apollo pictures supposedly don’t square with transcripts from NASA. 

And if the landing was indeed staged, the most budding astronomer could instantly spot anomalies in the constellations, so by necessity a starless sky had to be photographed on a set. While the other side maintains the photographs were taken on the moon with a camera exposed for broad daylight. 

Speaking of boats, there’s a story of Neil deGrasse Tyson taking a confiding jab at James Cameron for the climax of Titanic. We the audience were supposed to be focused on weepy Rose and Jack, not the constellations in the background that never once lined up consistently from shot to shot. I side, without contradiction, with both Cameron and Tyson’s logic because they place their focus and attention on what they love. As do the moon hoaxers. “For being in love,” Sting once recounted in his autobiography Broken Music: A Memoir, “is to be relieved of gravity.” A feat he felt returning home from his girlfriend’s house one night—the inspiration, he cited, for making “Walking on the Moon.” A story so unbelievably catchy we can’t help but sing along.